Book Review: With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

“Helen wondered how many couples had walked this very aisle today, this week, this month. Were they all insane to be marrying with a war going on, knowing they’d be starting their lives together, apart?”

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall, pg. 158
Photo by Barb Hopkins 2019

Readers who enjoy historical fiction mixed with romance won’t be disappointed when they pick up With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall.

I’ll admit, this is not the usual type of book I pick up (and you totally can tell that if you follow my book reviews or have scrolled through the pages on my site.) However, I’m so glad my neighbor recommended it and I listened to her and read it.

With Love, Wherever You Are is a book of fiction based on two real people: Helen Eberhart Daley and Frank Daley, M.D. Not only did Helen and Frank really exist, they are author’s, Dandi Daley Mackall’s, parents. Mackall has woven a beautiful, at times heart-wrenching, narrative that tells the fictionalized story of an army nurse and an army doctor who meet during World War II. It’s a tale of a whirlwind romance and wedding, followed by separation due to war and duty.

I read this book over the course of two days because I became so enthralled with Helen’s and Frank’s story. From their first meeting to the final days of the war, their story kept me turning pages. Without spoilers I will tell you that the place they met definitely was not a place where a young woman and man would normally meet in 1944. Author Dandi Daley Mackall takes readers on a journey, that is at its heart a love story set amid the horrors of the Second World War.

While Helen and Frank meet before D-Day, they don’t have much time to get married before they’re both sent overseas. They write many letters to each other throughout their deployment, more than 600 total according to the author notes, often writing two or three times a day. Before they are shipped out, the crafty couple devises a system, a code of sorts so they can tell each other where they are stationed. This had to be done because if they just wrote that out in a letter, the Army censors would have blackened those words out. Many of these letters are included throughout the book so you have a real sense of their emotions, personalities, and how the war affected these newlyweds.

When you pick up a copy of With Love, Wherever You Are be sure to read the author’s notes at the back, it’s a treasure trove and so much fun after spending 460 pages with Helen and Frank. She does tell the reader which characters were added for fiction, and other notes. I enjoyed that section as much as the story itself.

Please stop by Dandi Daley Mackall’s website and check out With Love, Wherever You Are and her other books.

Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.”

(Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Chapter 0005, page 60)

Fun and entertaining—Ready Player One by Ernest Cline delivers more than just a nostalgic look at the games and pop culture from my childhood. The story is as immersive as the fictional OASIS, a mix of dystopia and sci-fi with plenty of action and references to satisfy my inner geek.

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I did not read the book before I saw the movie and I’m glad I saw the movie first. Full disclosure, I really enjoyed the Ready Player One movie directed by Steven Spielberg and I’ve watched it multiple times. It’s the movie that prompted me to check out the book and want to read it; and I’m really glad I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

My advice: Don’t go into reading the book expecting to find the movie jammed between the pages. While they share the same title, characters, and overall theme, the Ready Player One book and movie really are two separate entities, both with their own merits.

Now, if you read the book first, I can see why maybe you didn’t care for the movie. Or maybe you did. Whatever. It’s my review and I liked them both, but have no issue keeping them as two different stories.

Let’s get back to the book. I liked it and plan to re-read it because there’s a lot to take in. It’s very detailed (okay, at times rambling) but I enjoyed the references and it didn’t take long for me to become invested in the journey of Wade Watts.

Wade Owen Watts (yes, his initials are W.O.W. and how fun is that when they’re entered into the high scorers screen of an old-school video game) spends his free time in the OASIS: the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. It’s 2044 and the world is a mess due to many factors including the Global Energy Crisis. The OASIS is a virtual utopia where humans can escape their depressing reality. Its creator has died but left behind a challenge; a game for gamers. If they can find the Easter egg Halliday hid in the OASIS, they inherit his vast fortune.

Halliday left three keys that had to be found followed by challenges to be won/solved before moving to the next key. Wade is on the hunt, one of the “gunters” going for egg, and his OASIS avatar is known as Parzival or “Z”.

Along with his best friend Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”) and other gunters known as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito, they vie to reach each key and claim the ultimate prize. Throw in the corporate baddies and their leader Sorrento and the race is on.

The book is told in first person from Wade/Parzival’s perspective. It’s extremely detailed, almost too much at times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the overall story and rooting for Wade to get to that egg and not let Sorrento win.

Do I recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? Yes, I do for fans of light sci-fi that’s filled (brimming!) with 80s pop culture and gamer references.

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

“When you know as much as we do, how can you ever decide to just . . . stop? Stop fighting? Stop trying to help? Once you’re in, you can’t turn your back on it.”

(Slayer, by Kiersten White, Chapter 17, page 224)

 

I really liked Slayer by Kiersten White and I say that as a huge fan of both the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992 and the long-running series—and I did watch all of Angel. I haven’t read the comics or graphic novels, so if you haven’t either, no worries. You won’t be lost, just maybe a bit surprised at few things that have gone down since Buffy, the slayers, and the Scoobies closed the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.

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Slayer offers a different look at the Buffyverse, centered on what’s left of the Watchers and what happens when the last slayer becomes activated. Set primarily at and near the Watcher’s Academy, not far from Dublin, twins Artemis and Athena have grown up there. Their mother is on the now very small Watcher’s Council (remember the majority of Watchers were blown up?) and their father was a Watcher too.

Before he died. Protecting his slayer. Buffy.

Artemis and Athena, nicknamed Nina, are the only children of Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick.

As children of Watchers, the twins’ lives have definitely not been normal, nor has their education. Artemis has trained in weapons and combat, while Nina has been more protected and has a natural hand (and preference) for healing. They’ve dealt with tragedy throughout their young lives, from the death of their father to the devastating fire that almost killed Nina because their mother chose to save Artemis first.

Their world shifts again after Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder and magic is purged from the world and all portals and hellmouths are closed. However, moments before it’s destroyed, something happens to Nina. She’s now the last slayer, and she never even knew she was a potential. It comes as a bit of shock, once she finally notices. It takes her a bit.

Slayer combines all the elements I have come to know and love from the Buffyverse and then adds a few twists that, for me, worked. There was ample teen angst, relationship issues, and jealousies flouncing about as well as parental units and Watchers that relentlessly get in the way.

I loved the supporting characters, in particular Cillian and Rhys as well as demon Doug. I never fully warmed up to Artemis, but that’s okay. I don’t think she’s completely likable. Then again, Nina definitely has her moments when you want to slap her upside the head as well—but let’s be truthful, there were times we wanted to slap Buffy too.

Kiersten White plays homage to the original Buffyverse nicely. I particularly enjoyed the dream connections and the interaction Nina gets with both Faith and Buffy. Slayer has plenty of action, the right amount of snark and wit, and plenty of heart. Loved the reveal of the “hunter” at the end and look forward to seeing how this all plays out in future stories.

If you’re a fan of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories, then definitely check out Slayer by Kiersten White. Also White is the author of one of my favorite (and often re-read) YA series: The Paranormalcy Series. I highly recommend it, you’ll totally love Evie and she always reminded me a bit of Buffy.

You can check out all Kiersten White’s books at her website: kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-books

If you’ve never seen the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (and WHY haven’t you?!) take a look-see at it on the IMDb.

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait

“Gabe didn’t always agree with the method the girls employed in their assistance, but he couldn’t argue with the results.

They always acted out of kindness, love and charity—

but they always acted.”

(Chapter 9, page 178, The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait is the second book of the Ateban Cipher duology and an action-packed adventure filled with intrigue, suspense, friendship, and fun. Author A.L. Tait takes readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.

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Gabe, Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett, and Midge are on the run again. Along with Eddie, the son of the king, the group journeys to a remote place named Haydon’s Mont where they hope to uncover the secret behind the mysterious book Gabe must protect at all costs. Hunted by their enemies, they face terrible dangers and must use all their cunning and bravery to get Eddie the documents he needs to regain his crown and survive long enough to rescue Merry and Scarlett’s dad from execution. Gabe discovers the truth about his own birthright and pushes himself to new levels of valor to help save his friends, their families, and the king while protecting the precious Book.

I really enjoyed The Book of Answers from start to finish, and then wished there was more. It’s a great escape from our modern world and I love being swept into a story that takes me on a journey. From our band of heroes trek to Haydon’s Mont to the outlying villages and the great courtyard at Rothwell Castle, author A.L. Tait delivers exciting action sequences, witty dialogue, and characters to like, love, and even detest—because you can’t have an adventure story without a few bad guys giving chase.

If you’re a regular reader of my book reviews, you know I don’t do spoilers. I will tell you that the secret behind the Book is pretty cool and how the book can be read, is even better.

Pick up the Ateban Cipher duology today. I highly recommend The Book of Answers and loved how the two books effortlessly merged into one grand adventure.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website for links to The Book of Secrets and The Book of Answers as well as her not-to-be-missed books: The Mapmaker Chronicles.

You can find reviews on all four of the Mapmaker books here on my site as well as my review of The Book of Secrets.

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel by A.L. Tait

“Your head can be turned, your heart can be wooed, but your gut never lies.”

(Merry, chapter 4, page 61 of The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait is book one in a duology titled the Ateban Cipher. Fourteen year old Gabe, an orphan living in the Oldham Abbey, finds himself the protector of a a special book. It’s thrust upon him by the dying Brother Benedict, who tells him to “take it to Aidan.” Gabe’s perilous journey begins, book in hand, as he flees the only home he’s ever known. With the help of a group of rebel girls, Gabe takes on a quest to find the mysterious “Aidan” and assist the girls in rescuing a wrongfully imprisoned family member.

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This book is so much fun! As a kid, I loved books like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the swashbuckling stories of the Three Musketeers. The Book of Secrets has a similar feel, in my opinion. It’s packed with action, adventure, danger, and an intriguing mystery.

I loved the wit and whimsy of the dialogue and the pacing of each scene. As for characters, Gabe is very likable and you’re cheering him on from the start. The girls are amazing and I loved each of them—smart, brave, loyal, and caring. And they save Gabe more than once. You want Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett, and Midge on your side.

There’s a lot happening in The Book of Secrets, but the story flows effortlessly with a comfortable balance of action, exposition, and dialogue. While not set in modern day, author Tait makes it easy to envision the times through her vivid descriptions and dialogue. I’d recommend The Book of Secrets for mid-grade readers through teens, but adults will enjoy this adventure as well.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website and check out The Book of Secrets and more. I also highly recommend her Mapmaker Chronicles series.

Book Review: Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake

“I can’t be weak now. I’m a human in a god’s war and I will surely die if I don’t get the hell out of here.”

(Analiese, chapter 39, page 312 of Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake)

I love mythology and some of my favorite books incorporate mythological characters, creatures, and tales so when I read the blurb for Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake, I knew I had to read the book.

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The story follows Analiese Jordan, a teen who lost her parents when she was very young. She’s been adopted by her uncle and his family that includes her cousin Dalton who over the years has become more like a brother. When Analiese and Dalton witness a hit-and-run, her life begins to change. The dying old man gives her his bag and asks her to get it to his grandson. How can she refuse? But when he calls her by name and tells her she’s in danger and needs to run, Analiese is confused and a bit scared. Then she finds a list of names in the bag. On the list and crossed out are the names of her parents and recently deceased uncle. The list also has her name on it.

Analiese Rising catapults the reader into a world where ancient gods walk among mortals and the Risers can bring the dead back to life, controlling them, but at a terrible cost. Analiese is a Riser, a descendant of the God of Death. When she learns of her true nature, the stakes become even higher. She places her trust in Marek Conte, the old man’s grandson. Together they’ll meet others like Analiese, form alliances, battle enemies, and ultimately be forced to take a stand in the long-simmering war between the immortals.

I enjoyed Analiese Rising from start to finish. Told in first person, present tense from Analiese’s perspective, author Brenda Drake drew me in and I found myself invested in the character and her story. It was fun being in Analiese’s head, from her introspection regarding the reality of gods and the supernatural to her growing romantic feelings for Marek.

In addition, I liked both the characters of Analiese and Marek because their personalities meshed well yet still offered enough conflict to keep me interested. The overall concept of the gods lost powers and their fight to get them back worked well, but it really was the chase that was my favorite part of the story. The journey from the U.S. to Italy and France takes readers on an epic journey and includes many sites you’ll want to put on your bucket list.

There’s a lot to like about Analiese Rising and I recommend picking up a copy today. It’s a fast-paced adventure that effortlessly blends romance, intrigue, and mythology.

Please head over to author Brenda Drake’s website and check out her books as well. Analiese Rising is a stand-alone but if you’re into series, she has those as well. Also, you can read my review of Drake’s other stand-alone book, Thunderstruck here on my site.

Book Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

“I want to do something.

For the missing girls, and the ones left behind.”

(Ellery, chapter 8, page 82)

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

I love a mystery and Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus checked all my boxes for a really good mystery. Author McManus keeps the reader guessing, offering twists and turns throughout the story. There’s plenty of deception, betrayal, secrets, and murder as well as a bit of romance and family drama. It’s got it all.

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Two Can Keep a Secret opens with the Corcoran twins, Ellery and Ezra, arriving in Vermont. With their single mom in rehab, they’ve said goodbye to their life in La Puenta, California and hello to starting their senior year of high school in the small town of Echo Ridge. They’ll stay with their grandmother in the same house their mother and her twin once lived together. Unfortunately before they can settle in, the twins encounter a dead body. Yes, we get a body in the first chapter, which as a murder mystery geek, made me very happy.

Ellery Corcoran is a lover of true-crime stories, her interest stemming from a horrific family incident that happened when her mom was a teen—Sarah, her mom’s twin disappeared and her body never found. Several years later, Echo Ridge was hit with a another teenage tragedy when Homecoming Queen Lacey Kilduff is murdered. It’s only been a few years since Lacey’s murder and now it looks like the killer may be back and targeting this year’s Homecoming court, which includes Ellery.

Also important to know, Ellery has an encounter with Malcolm Kelly soon after arriving in Echo Ridge. Malcolm just happens to be the younger brother of Declan Kelly, who was Lacey’s boyfriend at the time of her murder. Malcolm’s mom also has remarried and her new husband is Peter Nilsson, who once dated Ellery and Ezra’s mom.  Connections, connections. And there are many in this book, but that’s one of the things I like. McManus knows how to weave a story and plot a mystery.

I don’t do spoilers, but I can reveal there is another murder and Ellery can’t help but become involved in the mystery. The cast of characters are numerous and include the twins and their classmates, the twenty-somethings that are connected to Lacey’s murder (and even related to the Ellery and Ezra’s new friends and classmates), and the parents of Echo Ridge who were teens when the twin’s aunt disappeared. Everyone has something to hide, but who would kill to keep their secrets safe?

Two Can Keep a Secret had many elements I really liked, from strong and likable characters to witty dialogue and fun pop culture references. As a die-hard fan of the classic murder mystery, I particularly love the placement of clues that can help the reader arrive at certain conclusions. And I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my conclusions was wrong, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Definitely grab a copy of Two Can Keep a Secret for an engaging mystery with plenty of action, cleverness, and red herrings. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on any day—rain, snow, or shine. Karen M. McManus has a winner here. If you haven’t read her first book, One of Us is Lying, I highly recommend that one as well. Both books are stand-alone novels. You can check out my personal review of One of Us is Lying here.

Book Review: Ruins by Dan Wells

“Your lack of ‘purpose’ is the single best thing about you, because it means you be whatever you want.”

(Marcus to Kira)

Ruins by Dan Wells, chapter 41, page 370

 

The remaining Partials and humans are on the brink of war as Ruins by Dan Wells opens. Ruins is the third book in the Partial Sequence trilogy. Kira and Samm are still in the middle of it all, except this time they’re separated by miles of toxic wasteland. There’s still no stable cure for RM, the virus killing human babies, or a solution to beating the expiration date that threatens the Partials. Both sides are desperate for survival, but neither is willing to trust each other.

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Kira and Samm are determined to save everyone and the fragile world that is experiencing its first real winter since the Break.

The final book of The Partials Sequence sweeps across a world ravaged by an apocalypse and now facing another set of extinction events. However, at the heart of it all are small bands of resistance fighters—both Partials and humans, hell-bent on stopping the end of the world.

There’s a lot I liked about this series and about the last installment of the story. It’s more than just a dystopian saga. The Partials Sequence combines sci-fi with a medical thriller, action-adventure, and drama all tied together in a YA package. And for me, it works.

I’ve found the world-building in the Partials Sequence—all the way through Ruins and its conclusion, to be strong and immersive. His descriptions drew me in, from the colonized “civilization” on Long Island to the barren and crumbling city of Chicago, the toxic midwest plains, and the oasis in Colorado that only exists because of bio-tech. Wells has created a world decimated by humanity. It’s not a place I’d want to live, but the survivors have hope.

Character-wise, everyone has an agenda, even the heroes. I really liked how author Wells manages to bring the different factions together without it feeling contrived or unrealistic. Told primarily from Kira’s perspective, Wells does offer readers insight into the minds and motivations of Samm, Kira’s sisters, and even Heron. I’ll admit in book one, Partials, I wasn’t fond of Marcus. By book two, Fragments, he began to grow on me, and by Ruins, I really liked him. His wit and unwavering determination to do the right thing won me over.

If you’re looking for an action-packed dystopian series filled with twists and turns and just the right balance of thriller and romance, The Partials Sequence by Dan Wells is a good choice. Overall, I think Ruins is my favorite of the main trilogy.

Book Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

“She took Julian’s hand, and they stepped through.”

(Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare: chapter 33, page 835)

The Blackthorns are back in the third book of The Dark Artifices that’s titled The Queen of Air and Darkness. Cassandra Clare’s epic tale opens solemnly, which is fitting after the ending of Lord of Shadows (book two) ripped my heart out. If you haven’t read Lady Midnight or Lord of Shadows, books one and two respectively, you may want to skip this review as there are spoilers for those books. I won’t reveal spoilers for The Queen of Air and Darkness, though.

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The Dark Artifices spans three books (so far?) and is a sequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. It begins in Los Angeles, five years since the concluding events in the Mortal Instruments and the story follows Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family, characters introduced in the Mortal Instruments.

If you missed it, catch up on my thoughts about Lady Midnight (book one) and Lord of Shadows (book two) before reading the rest of this review.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, all 880 pages. Yes, it’s crazy long and there’s a LOT going on, but I have discovered that Emma Carstairs is hands-down my favorite Shadowhunter. Because I love the character of Emma, I’ve flown through this series, even during a few of the draggy parts (of which I feel there were only a few.)

The story picks up after Livvy’s death at the hands of Annabel Blackthorn and Emma’s shattering of the Mortal Sword. The Blackthorn’s, Emma, Cristina, and the Lightwoods are all as shattered as the Mortal Sword, suffering huge losses and caught in the middle of another war with shifting alliances.

At the core of Queen of Air and Darkness is the fight for true love—even if it’s forbidden between two parabatai. Emma and Julian still are struggling with their feelings as their worlds continue to fall apart. There’s also the ongoing fight against bigotry and hatred, on many levels, and it’s woven throughout this series.

While the rest of the Blackthorn family returns to California, the parabatai embark on a mission into Faerie to bring back the Black Volume of the Dead. Their journey is arduous and ultimately, Emma and Julian will find themselves fully entrenched in the parabatai curse and unwilling participants in destruction that can destroy everyone and everything they love.

I enjoyed Emma and Julian’s story, but there are many others throughout this series that kept me turning pages.

Kit and Ty: I love the evolution of the relationship between Kit and Ty. Ty has been one of my favorite Blackthorn’s from the beginning and Kit has evolved into a very likable and interesting character. He fascinates me and by midpoint of this book, I had an idea about his lineage and I can’t wait to see more about him in another series.

Mark, Cristina, and Kieran: I love the three of them together and watching their journey through to the end of the book was fun, although at times frustrating. Definitely, intense in some moments.

Diana Wrayburn: She’s developed into a character I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with and just talk. About everything and anything. I really like her and love the relationship she has with Gynn.

It’s also been a lot of fun to watch young Dru develop and mature. She’s definitely one you can’t ignore and hoping for more of her story in future series.

There also was a nice balance of Mortal Instruments characters interspersed, the tie-ins worked for me. I will say I could have had more Magnus, but then again, who doesn’t want more Magnus?

With any Shadowhunters book, author Cassandra Clare weaves stories for multiple characters across multiple landscapes. Despite the length of the book and many story lines, I never found it difficult to keep track of the different characters. I think this mainly is because each character is distinct with a specific purpose. I particularly liked the way she quick-shifted scenes to give the reader the feeling that certain moments were happen simultaneously.

Overall, I definitely recommend Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare, but highly advise you to read books one and two first. You can find additional information about The Dark Artifices series and Clare’s other books at her website: www.cassandraclare.com.